By Steve Makinen  () 

The Arena Football League has reached the conclusion of another season with Arena Bowl XXXII set for Sunday at Times Union Center in Albany, NY. Unlike last year, the two teams competing foe title are not a big surprise, as the game pits #1 Albany versus #3 Philadelphia. The latter upset Washington in the semifinals to reach this point, but still, wthe Soul have been the class of the AFL for the last half decade or so. Albany, who has been the AFL’s top team from front to back this year, would love to earn a first league title since ’99 by beating the flagship team. This will be the Empire’s second appearance in Arena Bowl. The Soul have played in the game five times, winning three of them, including back-to-back in 2016 & 2017. Being the home team and sporting the league’s best record, naturally Albany is favored.

Whenever I handicap a championship game of any sort, I like to look back at the history of that contest for patterns. Like has shown in college basketball of late, in the biggest game, most often the best team shines brightest. In other sports or leagues, the underdog team has shown a penchant for rising to the occasion. With that in mind, let’s take a look back at the history of the Arena Bowl game to see if we can spot anything that might help us generate a winning wager on Sunday, focusing more so on those contests since ’96 that have had posted point spreads and/or totals.

Here are some of the trends that have formed regarding Arena Bowl games based on the game logs on the following page:

• The competitiveness of the Arena Bowl series has increased for the good in recent years, as underdogs have become a much better betting option. In fact, underdogs are currently on a 6-2 ATS run in the game, and are 10-4 ATS since 2004. Favorites are just 7-7 outright in that span as well, giving hope to Philadelphia fans for Sunday’s game.

• In the last eight non-neutral Arena Bowl championship games, ROAD TEAMS hold a 5-3 SU & 6-2 ATS edge. Home teams have not won back-to-back games since ’02 & ’03. Albany hopes to become the first host to both win and cover the point spread since 2015

• Double-digit home favorites are just 2-3 SU & 1-4 ATS all-time in Arena Bowl games, and favorites of more than a touchdown are 1-5 ATS.

• In the last eight seasons, the team that held the lead at halftime of Arena Bowl is just 5-3 outright. Prior to that, halftime leaders had won the first 23 games!

• Topping the 40-point benchmark has proven critical to Arena Bowl success, as those teams that scored 40 points or less have gone just 2-19 SU & 1-7 ATS.

• On the opposite side of the point barometer, scoring 55 points in any Arena Bowl game has meant good success, as teams that have reached that mark have gone 16-6 SU & 16-5 ATS.

• Bettors have not been sharp in moving point spreads in Arena Bowl games, as they are just 9-13 ATS all-time when backing either side, including 5-9 ATS over the L14 seasons. “Backing a side” is determined by a line moving off its opening number TOWARDS either team at close.

• There have only been five prior Arena Bowl games in which the league’s top seed was NOT playing. In those games, teams seeded #2 or worse are 3-2 SU & ATS, all as favorites.

• Washington of 2018 was the worst team by record that has ever played in the Arena Bowl, having gone just 2-10 in the regular season. The five worst seeds to ever play in a AFL title contest were #6 seeds or worse, and all five lost, by an average of 12.6 PPG, going 0-4 ATS.

• In terms of totals, UNDER the total holds a 12-7 edge all-time in Arena Bowl games that had posted numbers. Four of the L6 games have gone that way on the total as well, although last year’s game flew OVER by nearly 30 points.

• Bettors have been a little stronger in predicting totals, going 5-2 over the L7 Arena Bowl games that have seen a posted opening total move off the number by close. However, that group has lost in each of the last two instances.

• The 2018 Arena Bowl game was the first since 2006 that closed with a total of less than 100. Including that game, each of the last three games in which that occurred went OVER the posted number.

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